This post is part of a series about, you guessed it, money, as inspired by a letter I received from artist Rachael Ashe. Read Part 1: Guilt at Home, Part 2: The Costs of Growth, Part 3: Cost of Living and Part 5: What's a Real Job?
With all this talk about money and our relationship with it as creatives, I think we should explore diversification a little.
Diversification comes up a lot for solo businesspeople, because especially in crafts, art and writing, it can be very difficult to make a living doing just one thing like making widgets, blogging, freelance writing or even that ever-amorphous always-tempting consulting.
Unlike most people who work in crafts or art, I don't make my living making crafts or art, or even designing patterns. I make my living doing some or another variety of writing or editing. Neither pays much, especially because I work in the crafts industry, which ain't exactly the most monied when it comes to the development, expression and promotion of ideas. But I thought I'd offer up my own experience as an example of how to cobble together a living by offering diversified services, in hopes you can relate in some way (say by substituting products, if you sell your wares instead services). And speaking of relating, please share your own experience in the comments. I'd love to learn from you, as I'm sure other readers would as well.
In the last year, I've made not-insignificant income by doing the following work (in addition to receiving royalties from books I've written that are still in print):
- Writing articles for magazines
- Editing crafts books
- Writing website copy
- Speaking at events
- Teaching workshops
- Writing a book
In order to stay grounded in the work that makes me happiest (writing about my own ideas and speaking at events), I try to make as much of my work as possible centre on the topics and ideas I find most exciting at any given time. For example, I pitch magazine articles that are on similar topics to the writing I'm already doing for myself. This helps me present myself, in general, as a resource on those topics, with the goals of being approached to do more related work and reaching an audience that's interested in it. Ideally, I'll end up in a lovely cycle of doing the work I enjoy the most, and being offered that kind of work more frequently.
Yes, I'm absolutely implying that I also do work I don't find as thrilling. I do this because it pays and I need the money, or because I think it will help me get more interesting work at some point down the line, or because I enjoy the collaboration involved with it. Though I no longer do much work in crochet, I rarely turn down an opportunity to speak about crochet when I'm invited to do so, because when speaking about crochet I always also speak about our experience of crochet. And now that I'm so focused on exploring our experience of creativity as I write a book on that topic, I can easily talk about crochet in the context of creative expression and experience. Also, I'm confident in my speaking skills, and I'd like to speak as much as possible so I can apply to or be invited to speak at larger (and more lucrative) venues and events.
Likewise, though I'll usually take a good magazine assignment regardless of the topic, I usually pitch ideas that relate to other work I'm doing. This allows me both to remain in that frame of mind, and to further establish myself as someone whose work on the topic is worth reading.
If I were in business selling the things I made by hand, I'd diversify by teaching when possible and advantageous, and by self-publishing (if not traditionally publishing) tutorials and/or patterns to establish myself as a friendly and knowledgeable resource.
How do you diversify your products and services? Do you find yourself pulled in too many directions? Are you looking for ways to supplement income from just one product or service?